Post Number: 1201
|Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 08:05 pm: ||
Harassment-Suit Participants To Get Refund From Attorneys
Judge: Return 'Unreasonable' Fees Plus Interest
POSTED: 8:21 p.m. CDT June 12, 2002
CHICAGO -- Unit 5 investigative reporter Renee Ferguson first uncovered the disturbing harassment allegations on the Ford assembly line. Now, Ferguson reports on the latest development in this ongoing saga.
After Ford settled the suit, the women complained that their attorneys had ripped them off. When the women couldn't find an attorney who would file a lawsuit against another attorney, they filed the suit themselves. Most of the women haven't gone to college, but they appeared in federal court, took on a battery of lawyers and won.
For many women, the Ford assembly line meant heavy lifting. For some women, sexual harassment added to the burden.
"I got stalked, followed from my home, from work to my home," said one of the women.
Another woman told NBC5, "I have been groped, grabbed, pinched."
Incidents like these led Ford to settle a class action lawsuit for $12 million. The court awarded almost $3 million to New York attorney Donlee Stewart and Chicago attorney Keith Hunt.
But then the lawyers charged the women yet more money. Each of them had to pay an additional $35,000 to $75,000 in fees.
One of the lawsuit participants said, "So, I received $150,000 and then I had to pay taxes on that money."
The women filed a hand-written complaint alleging that their attorneys double-dipped. Now U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo has ordered that the money be given back.
"I prayed, we all prayed long and hard for it," one of the women said. "It is just a wonderful, wonderful thing."
Another of the lawsuit participants said, "It was difficult, but you only know if you pursue it and that's the only thing that we could possibly do, was to try to pursue it and try to see what happened."
In a 16-page opinion, Bucklo called the attorneys "disingenuous, intentionally deceptive and unprofessional." She said their fees were "unreasonable." The women stand to get at least $685,000 plus interest.
"They've had my money for about 17 months now and 8 percent interest for 17 months is about $47,000 in addition to the $35,000 that Donlee took," one of the women said.
Bucklo also advised the women that they should consider suing the attorneys for malpractice and fraud.
"It is out full intention to prosecute our former attorneys to the full extent of the law," another of the women told Ferguson.
Unit 5's phone call to lead attorney Hunt has not been returned. In the past, Hunt said he felt he had not intended to violate his clients, but if the women go forward, Hunt and the other attorney may have to prove that in court.
Women Claim Ford Settlement A Bum Deal